Slant 11 Preview: PIA

PIA, directed by Tanuj Chopra, will have its Texas premiere at Slant. A sci-fi love story about the convergence of technology and the human soul, it stars Pia Shah as a malfunctioning android in the year 2063.

Tanuj is perhaps best known for directing the feature film Punching at the Sun, which premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. That film told the story of a South Asian teenager in Queens, NY dealing with anger and confusion in the aftermath of his older brother’s senseless death in a post-9/11 world. It was the first South Asian American narrative feature ever selected to the prestigious festival, and we’re thrilled to be screening Tanuj’s new work. We asked Tanuj a few questions about PIA.

What inspired the story in PIA?
PIA was inspired by an old Transformers comic storyline where Megatron and Rachet went through the space bridge at the same time and emerged as one fused entity. That storyline impacted me a lot as a kid — there was something horrific and terrifying about the idea. That was a seed for PIA — this idea of a dead human soul inhabiting the body of a female service android — and that giving rise to a new machine. This idea fascinated me and the story grew from there.

PIA, by Tanuj Chopra

This film is part of ITVS’s Futurestates series. How did you get involved with this?
Futurestates is a series conceived by Karim Ahmed and ITVS. Every season they send out a number of invites to filmmakers to submit an idea for a short film about the American future. The catch is that it has to have a fantasy, sci-fi or magic realism slant to it. PIA was my film proposal to the series. The series is a little inspired by the old school Twilight Zone short programs.

Tillotama Shome and Ajay Naidu in PIA

Futurestates is being shown online. Why should people go see your film in the theater if they can see it online?
This is a spiritual question. And an existential one. Why should anyone leave their house to do anything these days when they can do everything online? I don’t know and I’m not one to say to anyone you should see my film at all. However, the one concrete thought I can give is PIA was very beautifully lit, shot and designed by my director of photography, production designer and costume designer.

I think the big screen brings some of these elements to life. I think there is some emotion in the film (and all films) that breathes a bit more in the theater;  it’s a more visceral experience which I love. And who knows, maybe you go to the theater and actually talk to a human being at some stage in the experience? Also, Slant rocks, so there’s a reason.

Why, thank you! What are you working on now?
All the new goings on are generally updated at chopsfilms.com. We’ve got bunch of features, videos and commercial projects constantly in motion.

PIA screens as part of Slant 11 on August 11 at River Oaks Theatre.

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